Channel 4 gets in on AI action with contextual TV ads

UK broadcaster Channel 4’s progressive approach to content is seeping through to its ad strategy.

While publicly-owned and touting a successful on-demand digital arm, the television company still relies on good old TV advertising for a large part of its revenue. However, gains from ad spend, which makes up about 93% of its total revenue, dipped around £40m last year as a result of a TV ad market decline of 3%.

To offset this, Channel 4 has been working to make its ad spots more effective and accessible to a wider pool brands without making its programming more ad-laden, and has turned to advertising technology as a possible solution.

Currently in trial and dubbed ‘Contextual Moments’, the broadcaster has unveiled AI-driven ad tech that allows brands to target nuanced moments and scenarios within a programme, and place a relevant ad within the following break.

Channel 4 says advertisers will be able to buy “bundles” of these nuanced contextual moments relevant to their brand under categories such as food, hot drinks, relationships and mobile phones.

While previously a food brand might have placed a campaign around cooking shows, for example, they would now be able to insert ads around food-specific ‘moments’ found in the editorial of other shows, “such as a character in a drama baking a cake or a dinner party scene in a comedy”.

The roll-out of the ad tech comes off the back of the company’s own research with BDRC Continental, finding that viewers are twice as likely to remember an advert when it’s viewed contextually, compared to one in a regular TV spot.

In fact, results revealed improved brand performance metrics across the board, including uplifts in spontaneous awareness (34%), positive brand perception (12%) and purchase intent (13%).

Jonathan Allan, chief commercial officer, Channel 4, said; “Our pioneering ad tech provides an exciting opportunity for advertisers to test a global first in linear TV ad targeting which we know delivers strong results.

“Our ‘Contextual Moments’ trial offers advertisers the ability to buy bundles of relevant advertising within a quality and safe broadcast environment for the first time ever.”

While AI plays its part in combining both audio and visual data to automatically identity prominent, positive moments within the show, brand-safe marketers can rest easy knowing that each moment will be subject to human validation before given the green light.

According to Channel 4, results of the trials will be presented later this year.

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